Chilcot Report was published on 6 July 2016
|Date||2009-11-24 - 2016-07-06|
|Description||"The point of the delay is to give the impression Chilcot has been absolutely painstaking and therefore the bucket of whitewash he will throw cannot be hiding anything. Do not be fooled." (Craig Murray)|
The Iraq Inquiry, also referred to as the Chilcot Inquiry after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, was a long-drawn-out public inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War. The inquiry was announced on 15 June 2009 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who intended initially that proceedings would take place in private, a decision which was subsequently reversed after criticism in the media and the House of Commons.
On 6 July 2016, Sir John Chilcot read out a 12-page public statement at the QEII Conference Centre in London, after which the 2.6 million-word Chilcot Report, in 12 Volumes with 5 Annexes, was published on the Iraq Inquiry website.
A commentary on the day's proceedings by Bella Caledonia concluded:
- The full horror of what Blair unleashed will never be truly understood in the West. And, internationally the full consequences of this war are still to be felt. Today Blair is finished, and the process around trying him for war crimes will begin. As the sister of a soldier killed in Iraq said in the press conference that followed Chilcot:
The open sessions of the Iraq Inquiry commenced on 24 November 2009 and concluded on 2 February 2011. Later, the government vetoed the release of the documents to the Inquiry detailing minutes of Cabinet meetings in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2012, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office successfully appealed against a judge's ruling and blocked the disclosure of extracts of a conversation between George W Bush and Tony Blair moments before the invasion.
- "... and in the latter part of the day it turned into a sort of Tony Blair lecture in defence of his policies on what he calls "humanitarian invention" and then proceeded to warn the whole world on what he perceived to be the danger from Iran. I just thought the whole thing was a travesty as it was meant to be an inquiry looking into absolute finite details of the decision to go to war with Iraq and it turned into a Tony Blair tour de force..."
- “My committee and I want and intend to deliver our report to the Prime Minister as soon as we possibly can. But as I said to the Prime Minister in my letter of 20 January, I see “no realistic prospect” of doing so before the General Election. We have to maintain the principles by which we have operated throughout. The principles are those of fairness, thoroughness and impartiality. It is our duty to deliver a report which gives the Government, Parliament, the public and particularly all those who have been deeply affected by the events in Iraq the answers they deserve.”
On 8 February 2015, it was revealed that the Chilcot Inquiry had been tasked specifically with tracking down those responsible for “misplacing” three nuclear weapons obtained from apartheid South Africa 25 years ago. Both David Cameron and Dr David Kelly are understood to have been involved in the diversion of these WMD which eventually became the pretext for the Iraq War.
On 14 June 2015, the Independent on Sunday reported that the inquiry is still engaged in the process of Maxwellisation, named after the Board of Trade investigation into Robert Maxwell, the owner of the Daily Mirror, in 1969. This requires draft criticisms to be put to the people concerned to give them the chance to comment and means, according to sources close to the inquiry, that the Chilcot report is “unlikely to be published for another year at least”.
In August 2015, families of British soldiers killed in Iraq were reported to be "losing patience". Lawyers acting for 29 of the families have written to Sir John calling for him to set a deadline for witnesses to respond and to promise the report will be published by the end of the year or they will take their case to the High Court.
In October 2015, Sir John Chilcot wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron saying his two million word report into the Iraq War should be ready for publication in June or July 2016. On 6 May 2016, Chilcot confirmed that the report will be published on 6 July 2016.
It was initially announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the Iraq Inquiry would be held in camera, excluding the public and press. However, the decision was later deferred to Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman, who said that it was "essential to hold as much of the proceedings of the inquiry as possible in public". In July 2009, when the inquiry commenced, it was announced that the committee would be able to request any British document and call any British citizen to give evidence. In the week before the inquiry began hearing witnesses, a series of documents including military reports were leaked to a newspaper which appeared to show poor post-war planning and lack of provisions.
- Sir John Chilcot (chairman), a career diplomat and senior civil servant who was previously a member of the Butler Review
- Sir Lawrence Freedman, a military historian, and Professor of War Studies at King's College London. His memo outlining five tests for military intervention was used by Tony Blair in drafting his Chicago foreign policy speech
- Sir Martin Gilbert, a historian who supported the invasion of Iraq and claimed in 2004 that George W Bush and Blair may one day "join the ranks of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill"
- Sir Roderic Lyne, former Ambassador to Russia and to the United Nations in Geneva, previously served as private secretary to Prime Minister John Major
- Usha Prashar, Baroness Prashar, a crossbencher, member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the current chairwoman of the Judicial Appointments Commission
The Committee also takes secretarial support during proceedings from Margaret Aldred.
Advisors to the Committee are General Sir Roger Wheeler, ex Chief of the General Staff, and Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces; and Dame Rosalyn Higgins, former President of the International Court of Justice.
The Inquiry commenced in July 2009, with public hearings commencing on 24 November 2009 with Peter Ricketts, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the time of the invasion of Iraq, as the first witness. Opening the proceedings, Sir John Chilcot announced that the Inquiry was not seeking to apportion blame, but to "get to the heart of what happened" but that it would not "shy away" from making criticism where it was justified. The Committee resumed its hearings in January 2011 with the former PM, Tony Blair, as its prime witness.
29 October Protocol
On 29 October 2009, the UK Government published a Protocol in agreement with the Iraq Inquiry on the treatment of sensitive written and electronic information. Evidence which will not be made available to the public includes anything likely to:
- a) cause harm or damage to the public interest, guided by the normal and established principles under which the balance of public interest is determined on grounds of Public Interest Immunity in proceedings in England and Wales, including, but not limited to,
- i) national security, defence interests or international relations;
- ii) the economic interests of the United Kingdom or of any part of the United Kingdom;
- b) endanger the life of an individual or otherwise risk serious harm to an individual;
- c) make public commercially sensitive information;
- d) breach the principle of legal professional privilege (LPP);
- e) prejudice, in the case of legal advice (following any voluntary waiver of LPP) rather than material facts, the position of HMG in relation to ongoing legal proceedings;
- f) breach the rules of law which would apply in proceedings in England and Wales under the provisions of Section 17 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000;
- g) breach the rules of law applicable to the disclosure of information by the Security Service, SIS or GCHQ, the third party rule governing non-disclosure of intelligence material or other commitments or understandings governing the release of sensitive information;
- h) breach the Data Protection Act 1998; or
- i) prejudice the course or outcome of any ongoing statutory or criminal inquiry into matters relating to the information proposed for release
The Inquiry heard evidence from a variety of witnesses, such as politicians, including several cabinet ministers at the time of the invasion; senior civil servants, including lawyers and intelligence chiefs; diplomats, mostly composed of British ambassadors to Iraq and the United States; and high-ranking military officers including former Chiefs of the General Staff and Chiefs of the Defence Staff as well as senior operational commanders.
The Inquiry heard mostly from civil servants, intelligence and security officials, diplomats and military officers from the first public hearings up until it recessed for Christmas. Key witnesses included Sir Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to the United States who gave evidence on 26 November; Admiral Lord Boyce, former Chief of the Defence Staff; Sir John Scarlett, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service; Major-General Tim Cross, the most senior British officer on the ground in the aftermath of the invasion; and Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge, overall commander of British forces in the invasion.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was publicly questioned by the enquiry on 29 January 2010, and again on 21 January 2011. On both of these occasions, protests took place outside the conference centre. Because of widespread public interest in Blair's evidence, public access to the hearings had to be allocated by lottery. Special dispensations to attend where allocated to those whose close family where casualties of the war, some of whom shouted angry accusations at Blair during his second appearance.
From the Inquiry's resumption in January 2010, it heard predominantly from politicians and former government officials, including Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications.
After a recess to avoid influencing the May 2010 General Election, the Inquiry resumed public hearings on 29 June 2010. The first witness was Douglas Brand, chief police adviser to the Iraqi Interior Ministry from 2003–05.
The timing and nature of the inquiry generated a certain political controversy as it would not report back until after the 2010 General Election. Conservative Party leader David Cameron, dismissed the inquiry as "an Establishment stitch-up", and the Liberal Democrats threatened a boycott. In a Parliamentary debate over the establishment of the Inquiry, MPs from all the major parties criticised the government's selection of its members. MPs drew attention to the absence of anyone with first hand military expertise, the absence of members with acknowledged or proven inquisitorial skills, and the absence of any elected representatives. Sir Martin Gilbert's appointment to the Inquiry was criticised on the basis that he had once compared Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill. Several MPs drew attention to the fact that Chilcot would be unable to receive evidence under oath.
"Suffocating" the inquiry
The criticism by the Liberal Democrats continued with the start of public hearings, with party leader Nick Clegg accusing the government of "suffocating" the inquiry, referring to the power given to government departments to veto sections of the final report. Meanwhile, a group of anti-war protestors staged a demonstration outside the conference centre. Concerns were also raised about the expertise of the panel, particularly with regard to issues of legality by senior judges. On 22 November 2009, former British Ambassador Oliver Miles published an article in the Independent on Sunday, in which he questioned the appointment to the Inquiry panel of two British historians on the basis of their previous support for Israel. In a diplomatic cable from the US embassy in London, released as part of Cablegate, Jon Day, director general for security policy at the British Ministry of Defence is cited having promised the US to have "put measures in place to protect your interests" regarding the Inquiry. This has been interpreted as an indication that the Inquiry is restricted "to minimise embarrassment for the United States."
In 2012, Attorney General Dominic Grieve was criticised when he vetoed the release of documents to the Inquiry detailing minutes of Cabinet meetings in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Concurrently, the Foreign Office successfully appealed against a judge's ruling and blocked the disclosure of extracts of a conversation between Bush and Blair moments before the invasion. The British government stated that revealing the content of a phone call between Bush and Blair moments before the invasion would later present a "significant danger" to British-American relations. In his submission to the inquiry, Philippe Sands observed that:
An independent Dutch Inquiry has recently concluded – unanimously and without ambiguity – that the war was not justified under international law. The Dutch Inquiry Committee was presided by W.J.M. Davids, a distinguished former President of the Dutch Supreme Court, and four of its seven members were lawyers. The Dutch Committee was well-placed to address the substantive legal issues. I note, however, that the composition of this Inquiry includes no members with any legal background.
Release of documents vetoed
In 2011, The Independent published an article with 15 charges that have yet to be answered by the Inquiry. Speaking at a public meeting in 2013, David Owen said that the Inquiry "is being prevented from revealing extracts that they believe relevant from exchanges between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair". He blamed Blair and Cameron for this state of affairs, who he believed, have entered into a private deal to prevent the publication of important documents out of mutual self-interest. It emerged that the Cabinet Office was resisting the release of "more than 130 records of conversations" between Bush and Blair, as well as "25 notes from Mr Blair to President Bush" and "some 200 cabinet-level discussions".
Bucket of whitewash
"The Chilcot team was handpicked by Gordon Brown.
"The point of the delay is to give the impression Chilcot has been absolutely painstaking and therefore the bucket of whitewash he will throw cannot be hiding anything. Do not be fooled." Craig Murray
|Cabinet Office Briefing Paper 21 July 2002||briefing paper||12 June 2005||Generated for participants for the secret meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, this classified paper states that since regime change was illegal it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal. The last page is missing.|
|Exclusive: I Can Reveal the Legal Advice on Drone Strikes, and How the Establishment Works||article||9 September 2015||Craig Murray||Craig Murray reveals how Sir Daniel Bethlehem continues to bring a Zionist perspective to any legal advice emanating from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office|
|File:Laurie-Evidence.pdf||legal document||3 June 2010||Michael Laurie|
|Sanitising the Iraq War||article||6 July 2016||Jonathon Shafi||The full horror of what Blair unleashed will never be truly understood in the West. And, internationally the full consequences of this war are still to be felt. As the sister of a soldier killed in Iraq said: “There is one terrorist in this world and his name is Tony Blair.”|
|File:ScarlettandMiller-2010-05-05-1.pdf||legal document||5 May 2010|
|The Death of David Kelly and the "Sexed Up" WMD Report||article||21 February 2008||Paul Brandon|
|The Woman who nearly Stopped the War||article||19 March 2008||Martin Bright||In January 2003 Katharine Gun, a translator at GCHQ, learned something so outrageous that she sacrificed her career to tell the truth. Martin Bright on a brave deed that should not be forgotten|
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- "The Colour of David Cameron’s Underwear"
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|Constitutes||Public Inquiry +|
|Display date||24 November 2009 - 6 July 2016 +|
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|Display image||File:Chilcott.jpg +|
|End||6 July 2016 +|
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|Start||24 November 2009 +|